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August 8, 2009 / Infinite Tasks

The Mystery of the Entertainment Master

Poor Lucien Antitoi meets his Broom-swallowing-Demise at the hands of smiley-faced A.F.R. Entertainment-hunters (see pp. 480-489). His Demise, recounted in horrifying detail, serves at least two purposes. On the one hand, we are offered a frightening prefiguration of Hal’s contortions and “aphonia” from the beginning of the book. And on the other, we are led a few more steps along the path of understanding the circuitous journey of the Entertainment. This post is a sort of follow-up to last week’s On O.N.A.N.-ite Politics as I try to lay out what we know (at least, so far) of the Entertainment Master cartridge.

Lucien & his brother Bertraund were in possession – possibly – of the Master copy of the Entertainment. A peace-sign-flashing hippie with a Grateful Dead cap (“a skeleton playing at the violin”) sells them “eighteen unexceptional-looking and old lozenges… of a trop-formidable harmful pharmaceutical no longer available” (p. 481) – obviously the DMZ that ends up being bought by Pemulis (see p. 215). [22] These are presumably to be ingested sometime around 21 November Y.D.A.U. (the plan appears to be the weekend before the WhataBurger Invitational, p. 217, and if it is true that the DMZ is what causes Hal’s aphonia, then Bertraund’s plan to use pharmaceuticals to “attack the fiber of New New England’s youth” works out quite well, if poorly for Hal).

Bertraund has also been collecting cartridges, including one or two recovered “from the site of the flag-draped Shaw statue from untended commercial displays that stupidly contained detachable catridges… unlabelled except for a commercial slogan in tiny raised letters of IL NE FAUT PLUS QU’ON PURSUIVE LE BONHEUR,” which means something like: IT IS NO LONGER NECESSARY TO PURSUE HAPPINESS (p. 483). Joelle, we might recall, also paused at this untended display (see p. 223f.), giving us a much fuller description of the 2-D cardboardish dispenser: weirdly, an A.F.R.-type wheelchair-sat and lap-blanketed figure, whose face is contorted with terrible joy or ecastasy or a seizure. In fact, Joelle also sees the police removing the flag from the Colonel Shaw statue, indicating that she and Bertraund were probably there at nearly the same moment! (Actually, there is a serious time-line problem here, since Joelle’s suicide attempt on November 7 Y.D.A.U. was supposed to be followed by a 5-day stay at Brigham & Women’s (see p. 364), yet on November 9 she is already at Ennet House. For a full recounting of the time-line problem here, see my conversation with Paul over at I Just Read About That, at the end of his fabulous recounting of these events and meticulous work on the time-line).

[Update: Greg Carlisle, author of Elegant Complexity, has responded to my Query on this over at IS with the following:

[Joelle] was on the 5-day ward but she didn’t stay five days. She went to Ennet after one night on the ward.Here’s the way I put it in Elegant Complexity, describing the Interdependence Day (Nov. 8) AA meeting that occurs in the book after the Eschaton sequence, at which Gately is supervising the Ennet House residents:

“It turns out that Joelle did not die from her overdose at Molly Notkin’s party last night (Ch. 17.5). Gately apparently has been told that Joelle “just showed up two days ago right after supper” after being “up at Brigham and Women’s for five days.” But of course Joelle “entered the House just today,” “as of Interdependence Day A.M.’s discharge from B&W” (n. 134). Gately knows that Joelle “got in overnight under some private arrangement with somebody on the House’s Board of Directors”, that there’s “been no talk of a humility job for her”, and that “Pat’s counseling the girl personally.”

I find this a tempting analysis, though I’m not convinced it is a definitive one.  It relies on Joelle’s being in reasonably good shape just 24 hours after her (possible) o.d., and Gately being misled without real purpose.]

When Lucien previews this cartridge, it appears empty, “blank beyond static.” With the squeaky 9 November Y.D.A.U. arrival of the A.F.R. Wheelchair Assassins, Lucien is asked if the shop has a 585-rpm-drive TP for viewing Masters. And we’ve learned (endnote #205, p. 1034) that Copy-Capable Masters appear empty when viewed on a standard 450-drive (thanks to Noreen Lace-Forché of InterLace, as we learn in endnote #301, p. 1054, having been forward-referred from the previously mentioned note), and though even Masters are Copy-protected, their codes may be bypassed with the right resources. So what we have here, l’s & g’s, drawn from the very hand of the cardboardish assassin, is a veritable Entertainment Master, samizdat extraordinaire!

What possible route has this Master taken to arrive at the aptly-if-awkwardly named shop, “Antitoi Entertainent”? Well, the subsequent discussion (now the morning of 1 April) between Marathe & Steeply lets us know (1) that nearly all anti-O.N.A.N cells have Read-Only versions, and that (2) the A.F.R. has been searching for the Master stolen by Don Gately during the DuPlessis burglary. Wait – how did the Master end up with DuPlessis? Well, first it was purportedly buried with Himself, assuming the Entertainment is “Joelle in the weird wobble-lensed maternal ‘I’m-so-terribly-sorry’ monologue scene of the last thing he’d done, and then never shown her, and had ordered the cartridge’s burial in the brass casket with him” (endnote #80, p. 999 – and by the way, this gives us at least one reason why Hal and Gately might be digging up the head of Himself (see p. 17f.). They might be looking for the Entertainment!). My guess is that Avril removed the cartridge before Himself was buried and passed it along to DuPlessis! But its movement after Gately stole it (not knowing its capabilities), ending up nearby the Colonel Shaw statue, is still beyond me. (I had the idea for a bit that the hippie had passed them the Master, but apparently not if Bertraund picked it up and brought it home on Nov. 7. Still, how did the A.F.R. know he had taken it, if he hadn’t had it already from the hippie?)

One figure we have to add in to the conversation, here, is Ennet House resident Geoffrey Day. Why Geoffrey Day? Because Day is the editor of Wild Conceits, and whose essay in that book is the one that Jim Struck plagiarizes (in famed endnote #304): yup, the whacked-out account of the Root Cult of the A.F.R. is written by none other than G.T. Day, M.S. (p. 1056). When we meet Day, we are told he is a “red-wine-and-Quaalude man… Who taught something horseshit-sounding like social historicity or historical sociality at some jr. college up the expressway in Medford [and] also manned the helm of a Scholarly Quarterly” (p. 272). As Day has “been in and out of a blackout for most of the last several years” (ibid.), it is no surpise that his writing appears to Struck “like the kind of foam-flecked megalograndiosity he associates with Quaaludes and red wine and then the odd Preludin to pull out of the grandiose nosedive” (p. 1056). I think it is hugely funny that Struck nails Day’s preferred intoxicants exactly, here. Is Day just a passive researcher into the A.F.R.? Perhaps not. From a “selected Snippet” from Gately’s informal-interface hours:

Gately: ‘I’m remembering I heard Pat tell you that thinking people who are walking ahead of you are following you is a pretty bad kind of D.T.s, brother.’

Day: ‘And I informed her that there’s a well-known surveillance tactic known as the Box-surveillance, which involves certian members of the surveillance team establishing themselves in front of the subject.’ [In the original, the word “informed” is partially capitalized – Ray Gunn has a great post on DFW’s sin on partially italicizing words at Love, Your Copyeditor]

Gately: ‘Except I don’t ever remember you explaining why a sociology teacher weaving his way from his fourth bar to his fifth bar is important enough for four guys from some you-never-mentioned-what kind of conspiracy to be pulling this real complex surveillance thing.’ (endnote #90, p. 1001)

So, Day has been followed, possibly by the A.F.R. (about whose Root Cult, La Culte du Prochain Train, he knows far more than any ordinary researcher), but I wouldn’t put it past Steeply’s Office of Unspecified Services, either, who also have Read-Only copies of the Entertainment but would love to have their hands on the Master.

By the way, though Read-Only versions are in the hands of nearly all anti-O.N.A.N.-ite cells (p. 489), there is one interesting exception: the Albertan contingent.

Marathe said, ‘M. Brullîme, he tells Fortier he thinks the CPCP of Alberta do not have any copy.’ ‘Fuck the Albertans,’ Steeply said” (p. 489). [23]

Fuck the Albertans? Perhaps the Albertans are fucking you, Helen! The mention of Alberta recalls one “shadowy” Albertan figure, owner of numerous cable channels who, along with Turner and Malone, formed the American Council of Disseminators of Cable (ACDC) which initiated the take-down of the Big Four Networks (p. 412), a take-down that lasted only so long as it took for Ms. Lace to in a master-stroke destroy all television whatsoever. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Okay, last bit now. I mentioned that Lucien’s Demise also provides a powerful prefiguration of Hal’s aphonia in the novel’s Year of Glad opening. The IS Forum has a great discussion on language called Lucien Antitoi’s Broom & Trouble for Wittgenstein that deserves a read, since it accomplishes far more than I can do here. But it is worth noting that as Lucien dies,

as he finally sheds his body’s suit, Lucien finds his gut and throat again and newly whole, clean and unimpeded, and is free, catapulted home over fans and the Convexity’s glass palisades at desperate speeds, soaring north, sounding a bell-clear and nearly maternal call-to-arms in all the world’s well-known tongues. (p. 488f.)

Communicatively-challenged Lucien is set free to speak in a meta-tongue, a pre-Babel universal language, but only with his death. What warning does he call to the peoples of the world? Is it to Beware of Entertainment? And what danger does this communicative freedom pose for tongue-tied Hal?

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14 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. stephanie / Aug 8 2009 11:19 am

    Thank you so much for posting this on the IS board! I had been avoiding all blogs for fear of spoilers, but I’m totally going to read all of your posts now that I see that you’re reading for the first time and keeping to the spoiler line. What a great summary – I’ve been obsessing over some of these connections, but I had entirely missed others. Thanks for your work!

    • infinitetasks / Aug 8 2009 12:42 pm

      Stephanie, all the blogs I have linked on my site here are spoiler-free. I’m amazed that I’ve been scouring their writings and staying up with DD on the IS Forum, and I still have NO IDEA what is coming in the rest of the book. Some of these bloggers (GC, Detox, Zombie) are on their second or more read-through, but are just immensely careful not to reveal anything. I am just amazed they are able to do this, but it is because they really do care about the experience of first-timers like us, and don’t want to screw it up for us.

      • stephanie / Aug 8 2009 12:54 pm

        Good to know! Anyway, I appreciate your efforts – I’m reading all of your blog posts now and they’re immensely helpful.

        One more note about the Antitoi brothers – did you deliberately use the word “poor” to start your post? Because I just realized that Poor Tony was on his way to see them when he had his seizure on the train. They were the only people left who “owed him a kindness,” which seemed to be linked to when he stole the purse which contained the woman’s heart. (I haven’t figured out who “the woman” is, unless it’s Marathe’s wife, but then I’m still slightly confused – are the Antitoi brothers anti-AFR? I’m sure it was mentioned but I can’t remember.)

      • infinitetasks / Aug 8 2009 2:16 pm

        What a great catch, Stephanie! No, my use of “Poor” Lucien was just coincidence (though I think of PT a lot), as I hadn’t remembered that’s where he was heading (p. 303f.).

        The Antitois brothers worked for the F.L.Q. on occasion, but were mostly independent and “protected gently by their late regional patron M. Guillame DuPlessis” (p. 480). Hmm, could they have passed him the cartridge in the first place?

  2. dioramaorama / Aug 8 2009 12:20 pm

    Thanks for posting this! It’s very helpful – you’ve got a great eye for detail.

  3. Daryl Houston / Aug 8 2009 6:46 pm

    What a great synthesis of all these scattered bits of the plot.

  4. Paul / Aug 9 2009 2:33 pm

    Wow!
    When we had that little timeline discussion, I had no idea you had this much up your sleeve! I love that you tied into the G. Day/train footnote! I missed that entirely (although I like to think that when I get to Footnote 304 again, I would have pieced it together…I’m amazed you did this early!)

    Amazing syntheses and very careful reading!

  5. Dan Summers / Aug 10 2009 6:52 am

    Figuring out how the master got to the Antitoi store requires ongoing very close reading, but clues will continue to emerge.

    And my, but you really do pay wonderful attention to detail.

  6. Pete Mandik / Aug 10 2009 4:03 pm

    I think your remarks about the Lucien scene are quite nice. Here are some additional thoughts:

    One thing that seems worth mentioning about the description of the death of Lucien is that we get a pretty literal confirmation, from the narrator, of a life after death. This throws a certain light on other potentially fantastic or supernatural elements of the book (that I won’t fully enumerate for purposes of spoiler avoidance). But, to mention two spoiler-free examples: there’s quite a bit of ambiguity in the text about whether Lyle really does survive on sweat or whether there really are Higher Powers that save anonymous alcoholics. The non-metaphorical description of Lucien’s soul flying out over the land seems to be pertinent to various questions concerning the realism or naturalism of the book.

    • infinitetasks / Aug 10 2009 5:13 pm

      Thanks, Pete (& Dan & Paul & Daryl)! I’ve avoided any mention of Lyle yet, whose magical levitation and sweat diet is not yet within my ken to interpret. I think one can have a fanciful flight after death such as Lucien’s without too strongly injecting a life-after-death scenario (authorial discretion); however, there are revenants about, and I indeed expect further ghostly appearances.

      • Dan Summers / Aug 11 2009 6:00 am

        One of the posters over at A Supposedly Fun Blog has commented about Lyle. I’ve never tried to figure out what or who or how he is. (He’s actually one of the vanishingly few things I don’t particularly love about IJ.) I just kind of mentally shrug and say “well, that’s odd.”

  7. ray gunn / Aug 12 2009 10:06 am

    Truly epic in its scope, this post! Nicely done!

    A tiny, tiny speck of interest is how the sound of Lucien’s universal language is described both in terms of a bell (did you know a bell is the first nonhuman sound we hear in Hamlet?), which calls to mind Pavlovian conditioning, and as maternal, another conditioning stimulus, the sound of a mother’s voice having been shown to cause babies to involuntarily make sucking motions and whatnot. The strange gestalt is that these two things both seem allusory to the content of the Entertainment, but the narrative of Lucien’s death-speech seems to ask us to think of it as a kind of warning against the very thing it evokes.

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